BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Veljko Paunovic sat down in the postgame press conference Sunday night looking more dejected than he had following any of the other 19 Chicago Fire matches he had presided over. Even though the Fire left with a point from the team’s meeting with the second-place New York Red Bulls, the first-year head coach was clearly more haunted by the two points lost than happy with the one gained.
“After losing these two points, for me, is tougher than any other defeat we had this year,” Paunovic said. “It’s very difficult for us after a great response from the team and Matt [Polster] obviously with the goal. When we tied the game and then we took the lead of the game was a great response. This is what we learn. But we have to get better, it’s still the same issue with conceding goals in the last minutes of the game. I think the maturity and mentality comes in play and I think that we did some things, most of the things very well but we have to learn how to win games.
“Positive side is that we came back from the early goal from New York. That is the positive side but we have to learn how to manage the game and keep that result or even increase the lead, so we move forward.”
Polster’s first-half own goal and Bradley Wright-Phillips’ 90th minute equalizer negated Chicago’s two-goals-in-12-minutes comeback.
“I understand they came in saying this was a must-win game for them and they had it in their hands and it fell away so they must be gut-wrenched right now,” Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “Obviously we feel a little better having shown a very good response in the second half.”
Chicago had four shots in the fire half, all of them on target, while they held New York to just one shot. But in the second half, the Fire couldn’t muster another shot on target as they were outshot 11-3 in the second half.
Paunovic said that the quality of the performance to get the lead was what made the loss so disappointing.
“That’s how the game went. We dropped back too much and we allowed them to play,” Accam said. “That was difficult for us because we were chasing the ball in the second half and we didn’t have enough energy to go forward. I think we should have played like the way we played in the first half, keep pressuring them and try to keep the ball in their half, but we didn’t do that.”
No player experienced the game’s highs and lows as much as Polster on Sunday. Sixteen minutes into the contest he got his signals crossed with Sean Johnson and sent a failed clearance into his own net. He later scored a diving header, his first MLS goal, to put the Fire ahead, 2-1 in first-half stoppage time.
“I think it’s obviously disappointing,” Polster said. “Going down a goal, giving up an own goal by myself is unfortunate, but I thought we did well to battle back and go up 2-1. Obviously, to give up a late goal is not ideal. To have three points right there in front of you, and to lose them is disappointing.”